By now, Amon Düül II had settled into what would be the classic lineup of Chris Karrer on guitar and vocals, Renate Knaup on vocals, John Weinzierl on lead guitar, Lothar Meid on bass, Falk-Ulrich Rogner on keyboards and Peter Leopold on drums, with the ever-present Olaf Kübler producing. Here the band is assisted by Karl-Heinz Hausmann on keyboards, and the more permanent arrival of Daniel Fichelscher as a second drummer. Carnival In Babylon marks a turning point in AD2's musical evolution; the long psychedelic jams now yield to more composed structures, yet they always contain the band's unique musical signature and original songwriting. "C.I.D. in Uruk" opens, a potent rocker punctuated by its rousing chorus. The thematic shifts and involved arrangements are immediately evident, giving the music a huge lift towards the progressive. But the following "All ‘Round the Years" is nonpareil; emotive and with a great lyric, it's Knaup's finest hour. Weinzierl's raw guitar punctuates the left channel of both "Ballad of the Shimmering Sand" and "Kronwinkl 12" (named after their commune), while the vocals of Karrer and Knaup provide a vexing but thoroughly original tandem. This is certainly not the progressive rock of their British contemporaries; AD2's music is unpolished, edgy, even uneasy, but always rewarding. "Tables Are Turned" has a folk feel and shines with its laidback arrangement; the combination of Farfisa, acoustic guitar and Leslie-phased electric guitar is eclectic. "Hawknose Harlequin" closes the album; it's a bluesy jam driven by a fierce bass line and spooky organ, but as it paces through various themes over its near 10-minute length, it reclaims the psychedelic realms of the previous few AD2 albums.
Originally known as Kluster, the group was founded in Berlin at the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in 1969 by Conrad Schnitzler and Hans-Joachim Roedelius; the two were older art students who envisioned a space for their radical and decidedly non-western "Gerausche," or noises. Most every group that would be associated with the so-called "Berlin School," including Tangerine Dream, Agitation Free, Ash Ra Tempel and Klaus Schulze, played their earliest gigs there. Kluster released a few albums for the Schawnn label, which were basically backing sound for religious texts; but when Schnitzler left for Tangerine Dream, Roedelius and fellow student Dieter Moebius connected with Conny Plank to form Cluster. Their debut album, Cluster, was released in 1971 on the Phillips label. For their second album, Cluster II, they had signed to the Brain imprint of Metronome Records and discovered song titles (versus track timings). Neither album is easy listening and they certainly have more in common with the avant-garde electronic or musique concrete of academia than anything remotely rock ‘n' roll. That said, Cluster are completely into investigating sound on their instrumental experiments. "Im Suden" has a delicate melody that twists, turns and modulates throughout the track's near 13 minutes, while "Für Die Katz" pitches high to its title's effect. "Georgel" is quite ambient, and the following "Nabitte" simply wobbles! It's industrial music, in perhaps its purest form, and certainly Plank's hand at the recording controls helped shape what's heard on record. From here, Roedelius and Moebius would join forces with Neu!'s Michael Rother and record as Harmonia.
For their third album, Gentle Giant made their first foray into the realm of the concept album; and, as such, it's one of the band's most cohesive and satisfying records. As the title suggests, Three Friends does indeed revolve around the lives of three childhood friends. All of the Giant's cleverness that one may have "acquired a taste" for on previous records is present here; yet more direct and rock steady, the six compositions reflect a bluesy, if not ballsy, performance. The rollicking "Prologue" opens, its main theme punctuated to great effect with a fat saw-tooth Moog line. In contrast, the ensuing "Schooldays" is beyond inventive, whether it's the syncopated interplay between vibes, vocals and guitar on the verse or the gorgeous piano and Mellotron in the middle section; Kerry Minnear's voice is the perfect complement for the track. Accordingly, "Working All Day" gets a little dirty; the band adds a horn section over the laidback rhythm, and the heavy breakdown features a great organ solo from Minnear. The second side ambles before exploding into the giant rocking riff of "Peel the Paint," finally digressing into a mess of drums and echo guitar (not that I'm complaining); the band bounces right back with the snappy "Mister Class and Quality?" Underneath Minnear's hard-driven organ, the track seamlessly glides into the symphonic refrain of "Three Friends." Drummer Malcolm Mortimore had joined for the album and an ensuing European tour supporting Jethro Tull; however, his time in the band was cut short due to a motorcycle accident. Further tour commitments forced the band to quickly find a replacement. The album was the first of two released in the US on Columbia Records, and with Martin Rushent producing.
Germany's Guru Guru, formed in 1968 by drummer and vocalist Mani Neumeier and bassist Uli Trepte, gave new meaning to the concept of the "power trio." Originally from the university town of Heidelberg, the band shuffled through guitarists before moving to Berlin. There they added guitarist Ax Genrich, previously in an early lineup of Agitation Free, and proceeded to take the guitar-bass-drum formula and turn the combination on its head. Loud, intrepid and thoroughly soaked in psychedelia, Guru Guru created krautrock of the highest order. Both their debut album UFO and the following Hinten—released in 1970 and 1971, respectively on Ohr—displayed not only the guitar acrobatics of Genrich, but also the similarly freaked-out playing from the rhythm section of Neumeier and Trepte. Their third record, 1972's Känguru, was the first of two albums for the Brain label, and heralded a change. Guru Guru play rock ‘n' roll in the traditional sense of the word, but in a paradoxical fashion. "Oxymoron" opens with a renewed sense of purpose. Here the band are musical explorers, turning to arrangement and improvisation over the acid-soaked sonics of their previous works. "Immer Lustig" ("Always Funny") features a Neumeier march at the start; but from there, the rock ‘n' roll goes sideways. The track leaves Genrich free to explore his progressively inventive fretwork and tones, only to shuffle it off to Trepte, then back to Neumeier and so forth. "Baby Cake Walk" sports another rockin' riff from Genrich and initially, a vocal to match. It may seem incongruous, but wherever Guru Guru are musically, and whatever idea they're currently exploring, it's all but guaranteed that they'll switch to something else the very next instant. Yet, it all works and in the most psychedelic of ways. While many groups were peers of Guru Guru's, few—if any—were as original or as psychedelic.
Formed in 1970, Hoelderlin initially occupied a unique space in German rock music, combining the influences of British folk with musical romanticism—obviously, a nod to their namesake, the 19th century German poet Friedrich Hölderlin. Formed in Wuppertal, the core of the band included the von Grumbkow brothers, Christian and Joachim, and Christian's wife, Nanny de Ruig, on vocals. Longtime members Christoph "Nops" Noppeney on viola and Michael Bruchmann on drums also joined at this point; and story has it that after just a few gigs (and at the behest of German folkies Witthüser & Westrupp), svengali Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser offered the band a chance to record an album. Their debut, Hölderlins Traum, was released on the Pilz label. Primarily an acoustic album in a folk tradition, it is an evocatively beautiful record, featuring the German language vocals of de Ruig. "Waren Wir" opens gently, but the Mellotron-led section under the quick beat highlights the electricity the band could generate. The following "Peter" is more conventional, yet the baroque melody of "Erwachen" adds a certain formality and classicism to the mix. Even over a short six minutes "Requiem fur Einen Wicht" showcases the band's extensive composition skills, while the mostly acoustic "Wetterbericht" again features the melancholic beauty of de Ruig's voice. The instrumental "Traum" is another electric and eclectic number, pointing in the direction that band would eventually follow. The album has achieved cult status since its release, and rightly so.
The Parisian-born Jean-Jacques Kravetz was classically-trained on alto saxophone at the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris. In the mid-60s, he moved to Hamburg to work as a music teacher and moonlighted with folk-rockers The City Preachers on keyboards. Around the time of Frumpy's metamorphosis into Atlantis, Kravetz assembled some friends to record a solo album in Hamburg for the Vertigo label. Drummer Udo Lindenberg brought his former Mustangs bandmate, bassist Karl "Steffi" Stephan, and adds vocals to a couple of tracks. Inga Rumpf guests on "I'd Like to Be a Child Again," offering her voice and lyrics; but it's really Thomas Kretzschmer's guitar solo that steals the show. And there's Kravetz with his remarkable organ playing; not only does he have the chops, but his tone is exemplary, ranking him with the top British players. Lindenberg offers some vocals on "Ann Toomuch," while Kravetz adds a synthesizer solo toward the end. "Routes" drifts into chaos before returning on a nice groove, again with Kretzschmer providing the solo. The simple piano of "When the Dream Is Over" backs another Lindenberg vocal, while "Master of Time" is indeed masterful, and wouldn't have been out of place on Frumpy's second album. Kravetz was re-released in 1975 on the German Fontana label as 8 Days In April by The Hamburg Scene. Stephan, Kravetz and Kretzschmer would later work with Lindenberg in his Panik Orchestra; Kravetz also was a member of Randy Pie and, from 1977 on, Peter Maffay's band.
Matching Mole was Robert Wyatt's post-Soft Machine group, its name a play on the French translation of Soft Machine, "machine molle." Wyatt first managed to draw keyboardist and fellow Cantabrian Dave Sinclair from Caravan, then continued to recruit a first-rate band: bassist Bill MacCormick was previously in Quiet Sun and guitarist Phil Miller came from Delivery, while Nucleus' pianist David MacRae rounded out the lineup as a second keyboardist. The debut album begins with Sinclair and Wyatt's idiosyncratic and affected "O Caroline," one of only two songs with vocals on the record. The track slides straight into the sublime "Instant Pussy," where Wyatt's voice is used in a wordless role. From there, the album is instrumental, flush with fusion-like textures that rely heavy on improvisation. There is a hint of the so-called Canterbury sound, but the playing is distinctively looser and decidedly jazzier. Of course, the performances are all first-rate, particularly on Miller's "Part of The Dance," the only composition not written by (or with) Wyatt. The album closes with the King Crimson-esque Mellotron-fest "Immediate Curtain." Unsurprisingly then, it was Robert Fripp who was called in to produce the band's second album, Little Red Record, released in October of the same year. Absent on that record were both Wyatt's writing from the composition credits and Sinclair's fuzzed-out Hammond, as the latter musician had left for Hatfield and the North. Overall, the sound on this album is heavier; the uncharacteristic "Gloria Gloom," sounding analogous to its title, features guest Brian Eno. The debut album's charming cover of a mole was replaced with an equally charming play on a Chinese communist postcard—a not-so-subtle hint at Wyatt's political future. In June 1973, Wyatt's paralysis from a fall from a fourth-floor window led to the group's end. He spent the next six months in hospital in Aylesbury recuperating.
Caravan's fourth album was a bit of a departure: Richard Sinclair brought in new keyboard player Steve Miller, previously in Delivery, to "jazz" up the Caravan sound. "Waterloo Lily," a song about a heavy-set hooker, would be one of the last songs Sinclair would sing with the band. It's a simple number, but Miller's extended electric piano solo signals the change. The next track, "Nothing at All," is extremely out of character for the band; not to its discredit though, some strong soloing by guitarist Phil Miller (Steve's brother) and saxophonist Lol Coxhill grace the number. Miller's "It's Coming Soon" is similarly blues-based. The second side is bookended by some more conventional Caravan numbers, but its highlight is the lengthy "The Love in Your Eye." In the tradition of the "For Richard" suite, the track has several instrumental sections that flow together effortlessly; and, as to be expected, some more fine soloing from the band as well. Producer David Hitchcock suggested the string accompaniment; and fortunately, Decca anted up. The album remains a somewhat controversial entry in the Caravan catalog, but is nonetheless veritable. The band toured the UK in the late spring, but both Miller and Sinclair would leave the band thereafter. A short-lived lineup with Derek Austin on keyboards and Stuart Evans on bass toured Australia and New Zealand in early 1973, though the band was unable to complete a new album before they members moved on as well.
Italy, more than any other country represented in the timeline, produced some of the most genuine and decadent progressive rock during the early 70s. Even more obscure than the English "cult classics," only the polycarbonate and aluminum of the compact disc has allowed for these treasures—which were originally pressed in the hundreds—to be resurrected from both oral legend and obscurity. One of the prime examples is Il Balletto di Bronzo ("Bronze Ballet"). Another Neapolitan band, their debut album Sirio 2222, released in 1970 on RCA, owed much to 60s psychedelia; prog rock it certainly wasn't. However, in 1971, guitarist Lino Ajello and drummer Giancarlo Stinga added two new players to the lineup: bassist Vito Manzari and, most significantly, ex-Città Frontale keyboardist Gianni Leone. Leone quickly instigated a new musical direction for the band; the resulting album, Ys, remains one of the most revered classics of the era. A concept album about a mythical city in Breton folklore, the album consists of five movements. With a foreboding chorus, "Introduzione" unfolds to the classically-inspired organ of Leone. Halfway through the track, Manzari's bass cues up a prog rock workout that the band hammers out with a manic intensity reminiscent of Van der Graaf Generator. While the band is up to task, it's Leone's keyboards that steal the show, presenting a classic palette throughout: With organ, piano, Mellotron, Moog and spinet (similar to a harpsichord), it's an almost dissolute pleasure. Leone's Italian vocals and the female chorus are similarly discordant, as "Secondo Incontro" ("Second Encounter") attests; yet throughout the album, Il Balletto di Bronzo is heavy, dissonant, reckless, completely over the top and all the more wonderful for it. This is classic rock progressivo Italiano. The band attempted an English language version of the album; however, it never saw completion. (Decades later, two tracks were released as a CD single; in addition to the English lyrics, it features a different mix from the album). After a round of touring and a second single in 1973, the band broke up due to lack of success.
Uriah Heep, named after the Charles Dickens character, was one of the more critically-derided bands of the era. The classic quote is this: "If this band makes it, I'll have to kill myself" (Rolling Stone, Melissa Mills, 1970). Sadly, a few of the members did pass away too early: New Zealander Gary Thain in 1976, while David Byron (born David Garrett) died in 1985. Lead singer Byron and guitarist Mick Box had previously been in the Essex-based band The Stalkers, which mutated into Spice in 1967. With the arrival of bassist Paul Newton the following year, they recorded a lone single, but also signed on with manager Gerry Bron. Former The Gods' keyboardist Ken Hensley came on board during recording sessions in late 1969, at which point Spice changed their name to Uriah Heep. Recorded at Lansdowne Studios with engineer Peter Gallen (as were most of their albums), their debut album appeared in 1970, followed quickly by two more albums in 1971. Heep's sound was much closer to the heavy thunder of Deep Purple than anything strictly progressive, but their albums were original and contained epic gems such as "Salisbury" and "July Morning." During this time, the band endured several personnel changes (mainly with drummers) before settling down in 1972 with Thain (formerly with the Keef Hartley Band) on bass and Lee Kerslake (another The Gods' alumnus) on drums. Demons And Wizards embodies Uriah Heep's finest hour. It has all the accoutrements of a good prog rock record: songs about wizards and demons, plenty of Hammond organ and a Roger Dean cover. But the one element that raises the bar is the great songwriting. Whether "The Wizard," "Traveller in Time" or "Circle of Hands," each track rocks hard and delivers catchy hooks. From start to finish, the album moves consistently and sets a blueprint for the stadium-sized anthem rock that would appear later in the decade. The Heep nearly had a hit single in the classic "Easy Livin'" b/w "Gypsy," and the album reached the Top 20 in both the UK and US, earning gold status as well.
Agitation Free's roots were in the same creative scene that most bands in late-60s Berlin shared. The group was founded in 1967 by bassist Michael Günther and guitarist Lutz "Lüül" Ulbrich. By the time their ranks had congealed enough to record their debut album, drummer Christopher Franke had already departed to Tangerine Dream, and guitarist Ax Genrich to Guru Guru. By 1971, keyboardist Michael Hoenig, guitarist Jörg Schwenke and drummer Burghard Rausch had joined Günther and Ulbrich, and teamed up with avant-garde composer Thomas Kessler and his Berlin studio. Improvisation and experimentation were at the band's core; and fortunately, so was endurance. Using a grant from the Goethe Institute, the band traveled to Egypt, Lebanon and Cyprus. Upon returning to Berlin, Agitation Free recorded their debut album, Malesch, for the Music Factory label in 1972. "You Play for Us Today" opens with a soundbite from their trip, one of the many field recordings interspersed throughout the record; while "Sahara City" drifts in stasis until it erupts, "Ala Tul" offers a progressive sound, anchored by organ and punctuated by a gripping rhythm from Rausch and guest Uli Popp. "Pulse" rises from a simple pulsating synth, just as the title track "Malesch" emerges from an organ line. Much like music from the Middle East, the band builds on a pattern, propelled forward by a fluid, moving rhythm. As avant-garde or even academic as their roots may be, there's still a musicality to the band that defies that pedigree. Like the best American psychedelic bands, Agitation Free excel at improvisation, and offer a free rock sound that's both stirring and moving. The closing "Ruecksturz" reprises a melodious theme, indicating the direction for their next album. ["Malesch" is an Egyptian word that translates to "take it easy, don't worry"—a response to their first concert's cancellation due to a customs delay entering Egypt.]
Aphrodite's Child was a Greek singles group that had some success in the UK; but more importantly, they spawned two of Greece's greatest musical exports, singer Demis Roussos and composer/performer Vangelis Papathanassiou. By the time their seminal 666 (The Apocalypse of John, 13/18) was released, the beat era and any pop legacy were all behind them. Based on the Book of Revelation, the double-album was recorded in Paris, from late 1970 to early 1972. Musically it's all over the map; but what composer Vangelis offers is not only more psychedelic and progressive than his previous output, it is as wholly conceived as a concept album as any other record of the era. From great pop hooks ("The Four Horsemen") to heavy rock ("Do It") to Magma-esque prog rock ("Altamont"), the album covers a lot of ground while remaining unique, cohesive and even quite idiosyncratic of Vangelis's later solo recordings. "?" (Infinity), a female orgasm trip supplied by Irene Papas, was controversial upon the album's release, though that has certainly worn off with age. The performances are all top-notch—in particular, Silver Koulouris's psychedelic guitar work and Lucas Sideras's drumming. The album's magnum opus, the 20-minute finale "All the Seats Were Occupied," is transcendent. Drifting in and out of the mix, the track reprises the album's various themes as it gradually unfolds into a tight psychedelic groove. Unfortunately, this album would be the last for the band. Roussos left for a solo career in Greece after the recording, while Vangelis would eventually move to London to begin a long and distinguished career.
Khan was the brainchild of Steve Hillage. Previously in Uriel (aka Arzachel), the guitarist went off to complete his studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury, where much of the album was subsequently written. Gaining support from Caravan's manager Terry King, he formed Khan in 1971, with Nick Greenwood (ex-The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) on bass and Eric Peachey on drums. Dave Stewart replaced original keyboardist Dick Heningham just prior to recording Space Shanty, their first and only album. The title track reveals some heavy psychedelic rock, but with a fair amount of melody and hippie flair. Building on the Arzachel/Egg formula, the record showcases Hillage's distinct guitar style. Here, he first finds the echo effect that would provide the signature to his guitar work with Gong; but he also doesn't shy away from bending a few notes either. Stewart's organ, of course, is a fine complement, particularly on "Stranded." Hillage's first solo album, Fish Rising, would be the logical successor to this record; just check out the closing section of "Driving to Amsterdam." After the album's release, Hillage and Stewart carried on with a new rhythm section for a few short months; but an offer from Kevin Ayers lured Hillage away, and the band ended abruptly, with Stewart moving on to Hatfield and the North after a spell of unemployment. The album was originally issued by Deram in the UK and Brain in Germany, but also was reissued years later in the US on Passport Records. Following his departure, Greenwood released a solo album called Cold Cuts, featuring Heningham and Peachey, which he had recorded in California in 1970, prior to joining Khan.
In 1970, keyboardist Tony Pagliuca ventured to the Isle of Wight festival in Seaclose Park, UK, befriending noted photographer Armando Gallo from the Italian weekly Ciao 2001. Upon returning to Venice, he gathered Michi Dei Rossi and Aldo Tagliapietra and resurrected Le Orme as one of Italy's first progressive rock group. The band took off in a direction similar to that of The Nice and Quatermass, with keyboards at the fore. Supported by producer Gian Piero Reverberi and a contract with Philips Records, the band recorded a new album, Collage, released in 1971. Classically (and British) influenced, the heavy organ rock on "Cemento Armato" is not to be missed. Uomo di Pezza ("Man of Rags"), released in 1972, took an even bigger leap, presenting music that was not only unconventional, but distinctly Italian as well. After a resound start, "Una dolcezza nuova" descends into a moving melody, highlighted by Reverberi's beautiful piano and Tagliapietra's soothing voice. The gentle "Gioco Di Bimba" ("Child's Play") follows, with guitar and clavichord dominating. But "La porta chiusa" quickly changes the mood, with its powerful bass and organ chords: It's a veritable prog rocker and uniquely Le Orme. "Aspettando l'Alba" features Tagliapietra's guitar and Pagliuca's Mellotron, offering a mood so haunting it aches; while the closing "Alienazione" is a full-on prog assault, with Dei Rossi pummeling his drums. As a single, "Gioco Di Bimba" b/w "Figure Di Cartone" topped the Italian hit parade; the album also scored, rising to No. 1 on the Italian charts. At the year's end, Le Orme toured Italy with Peter Hammill (performing solo) as the opener.
Lucifer's Friend had their roots in Hamburg in a group called The German Bonds. Founded by organist Peter Hecht and bassist Dieter Horns, they were a typical 60s beat group, releasing a few singles to no acclaim; however, they also all worked as studio musicians in the bustling Hamburg music scene. By 1970, with guitarist Peter Hesslein and drummer Joachim Rietenbach, they teamed up with two singer, Englishman John Lawton and Tony Cavanna, and released an album of heavy rock for Decca Records as Asterix. Shedding Cavanna and gaining producer and former Rattle Herbert Hildebrandt, they recorded their debut album proper—which carried the band's new name, Lucifer's Friend. It's an excellent album of heavy rock, rivaling similar works from Deep Purple or Uriah Heep, and best encapsulated with the stone-classic track "Ride the Sky." Their second album, …Where The Groupies Killed The Blues, changed musical direction, something the band would continue to do throughout their career. Released in 1972, it features lyrics and music from John O'Brien-Docker, founder of The City Preachers (a band that morphed into Frumpy). Not surprisingly, the acoustic "Burning Ships" opens the album, with Lawton's robust voice to the fore. "Prince of Darkness" sports a heavy riff, but Hecht's piano tempers any potential sonic onslaught. "Hobo" is an instant classic, while "Mother" features Horns on bass-fiddle; the tense, shifting arrangement goes from hard blues to symphonic. "Summerdream" shows Hecht's hand at orchestration, but it's the diverse structure of "Rose on the Vine" that's the album's highlight. It's an interesting record: one that attempts to embrace the burgeoning progressive with mostly excellent results. Like many of their releases, the album did see a US release on Passport Records (with an improved track order), but not until almost three years after it was recorded. Lucifer's Friend carried on throughout the 70s, releasing several albums of mainstream hard rock; but Lawton left the band in 1977 to join Uriah Heep.
The Osanna story begins in Naples with the band Città Frontale. The original lineup consisted of vocalist Lino Vairetti, drummer Massimo Guarino, bassist Lello Brandi and guitarist Danilo Rustici. When keyboardist Gianni Leone left for Il Balletto di Bronzo in 1971, they added Elio D'Anna on sax and flute, and changed their name to Osanna. The band earned quite a reputation as a live act, as they were one of the first to wear costumes on stage and integrate theatre into their performance. In addition to playing the major Italian festivals, they opened for Genesis on their earliest tour of Italy. Their first album, L'Uomo, was released in 1971 on Fonit Cetra. It was a curious mix of hard rock with progressive overtones, and evoked the earliest of Jethro Tull's works. In 1972, Osanna teamed up with Luis Enríquez Bacalov to produce Preludio Tema Variazioni e Canzona, aka Milano Calibro 9: a soundtrack for the film noir by Fernando Di Leo. Bacalov of course, was hot on the heels of Concerto Grosso per i New Trolls. "Preludio" sets the stage: The contrast of flute and synthesizer yield to the sharp string arrangements, and when the band kicks in, the music shifts into high gear. Throughout each of the seven "Variatione," the band is potent and eclectic. The album ignores the British idiom of adding orchestral arrangements as a mere accoutrement; it's a true fusion of rock and classical music. In a valiant attempt to bring "Eurobands" to the US, the album was the first to be released on the Peters International Cosmos Label in May 1974.
Roxy Music was a pop experiment that, among other things, provided a fertile spawning ground for many progressive musicians. John Wetton, Eddie Jobson and John Gustafson, in addition to longtime members Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera, all played in the band. But Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno were the dominant characters of Roxy Music, and their clashes would eventually lead to Eno's exit after their second album. With all this talent though, the band would prove to be an influential force for years to come. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Their debut album, produced by Crimson alumnus Pete Sinfield, was written entirely by Ferry; it offered pop music disguised as art rock. The Bowie-esque "Remake/Remodel" is a standout, as is the single "Virginia Plain" b/w "The Numberer." Neither is hard to digest; but given the full "Roxy" treatment, both gain another dimension beyond simple pop. Even Ferry's overwrought warble couldn't dilute its impact: The album made the UK Top 10. But it's a track like "If There is Something" that, despite starting off slow, descends into the type of instrumental workout that kept Roxy Music albums appealing to progressive audiences for years to come. The band would reach a creative zenith on 1974's Country Life before taking a break the following year, only to return with even smoother records beginning with 1979's Manifesto. In between, Ferry, Manzanera and Mackay would contribute to dozens of solo albums and side projects—again, all of interest to the progressive listener.
Supersisters' third album, Pudding en Gisteren, yielded a Dutch Top 40 single and again saw release in the UK, this time on Polydor. The single, "Radio" b/w "Dead Dog," evinces Robert Jan Stips's creativity and humor, while the ensuing "Psychopath" offers a nod to Kevin Ayers. Clocking in around the 12-minute mark, "Judy Goes on Holiday" covers a lot of ground, including some serious doo-wop that closes the piece. The title track gets back on course, charting a rousing melody of clavinet and flute, before slinking down to a funkier groove. From there, it's all over the place, with Stips's keyboards always at the fore and the ever-present rhythm section of Ron van Eck and Marco Vrolijk underneath. The album was successful, at least critically, as Supersister earned an Edison music award in their native Netherlands. As with the band's two previous albums, the record was produced by Hans van Oosterhout. However, due to creative differences on Supersister's following project, Sacha van Geest and Vrolijk left the band. Their next album—Iskander, a tribute to Alexander the Great—featured Charlie Mariano on sax and Herman van Booyen on drums, and was recorded at The Manor Studio with Giorgio Gomelsky producing. It's a powerful record, but one rooted in fusion and without the "Canterbury" charm. Oddly enough, Elton Dean of Soft Machine would join the band following Mariano's departure. A final album, Spiral Staircase (under the band name Sweet Okay Supersister), was released in 1974, with Stips and van Gest revisiting some of their earliest material; but after that, the band called it a day. Stips joined Dutch rockers Golden Earring for several albums (including the excellent To The Hilt) in the mid-to-late 70s.
Recorded during late 1971 and early 1972 between tours of the US and UK, Trilogy marks the third studio album from the trio of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The album opens with one of their greatest compositions, "The Endless Enigma." Anchored by Greg Lake's bass, the fantastic interplay between Keith Emerson's blaring Hammond organ and Carl Palmer's spry drum work is economical, but also crisp and precise. Lake's lyrics are succinct and his double-tracked vocal delivery right on the mark. On the interning "The Fugue," his bass provides counterpoint to the melody of Emerson's solo piano, though the rest of the band return for the final refrain of "Part Two." Subdued electric guitar and synthesizer solos complement Lake's exceptionally bright guitar on the compulsory acoustic number "From the Beginning;" the song saw some chart action as a single in the US, hitting the lower reaches of the Top 40. Perhaps the time ELP spent in America had some influence on the band's choice of material, as the Wild West seemed to provide inspiration for the next two tracks. The indulgent but genuine rocker "The Sheriff" begins with a roll around the drum kit from Palmer, while "Hoedown" sports an effective arrangement of Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo." The overly romantic "Trilogy" opens, but changes gear swiftly, highlighting Emerson's multitracked keyboards. "Living Sin" is a welcome and hard-rocking throwback; while the circular motion of "Abaddon's Bolero," which slowly builds with each successive repetition of its main theme, relies so much on multitracking that it couldn't be performed live. Eddie Offord's production throughout is impeccable, but it's the sheer diversity of the album's compositions that renders it one of ELP's—and the entire prog rock genre's—most enduring works. The album reached the Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic. The photograph of the band inside the album's gatefold was taken in Epping Forest.
This double-album offers a chronological retrospective of Jethro Tull's career to date, compiling non-album singles and recordings from 1968-1971. However, with only four tracks from the previous studio albums, many (myself included) consider it an album of nearly all-new material. So given the bulky proposition of Thick As A Brick, released earlier in the year, many also found Living In The Past much easier to digest. In fact, the album did break into the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. The title track, a UK hit for the band in mid-1969, made it back into the US charts shortly before the album's release. The packaging also rivaled that of TAAB, with its thick cardboard cover resembling a hardcover book than a record jacket. But all of that aside, the compilation remains one of the most satisfying Tull records, due in part to the era it encompasses: their best. Much like the previous Benefit in composition and feel, the album focuses on Ian Anderson as singer-songwriter. The album contains some of his most delicate tunes: in particular, the primarily acoustic numbers on the fourth side, including "Life Is a Long Song," "Up The ‘Pool" and "Dr. Bogenbroom." The instrumental "For Later" is the sleeper track, however, speaking volumes about prog rock in its brief two minutes and eight seconds. The third side of the album contains part of a live concert recorded in late 1970 at Carnegie Hall; but (unfortunately) it's just a lot of soloing from John Evan and Clive Bunker. The remaining—and far more interesting—portions of that concert were released in 1992 as part of Jethro Tull's 25th Anniversary Box Set.